It is the very thing that was lacking in my push ups the entire time I was struggling with them before the lightbulb went off...
Leading up to my "eureka" moment, I had struggled with push ups for years! I absolutely detested doing them because I thought I couldn't. I bought into the belief when I was very young that "WOMEN CAN'T DO PUSH UPS!" I thought that any woman who COULD actually do a push up had to be extremely tough like one of those bodybuilders. And that wasn't me.
When I initially began strength training at age 20, I couldn't do a push up - but I began to believe that I could (which was exciting!). I saw other women in my kettlebell class were able to do them, and I wanted to be able to do them too - so badly! I tried and tried and eventually was able to do one - but my form was terrible. I was using my upper body almost entirely. But I didn't see the problem as long I was "able" to do a push up...and then eventually many push ups in a row as I got stronger! I was getting really strong, in fact, especially in my upper body.
My pec (chest) muscles were extremely developed. My traps (below the neck and upper medial back) were super strong. Glutes (buttox) and lats (largest back muscle wrapping around the sides of the upper body) were strong too but in relationship to how strong my chest and traps were, my glutes and lats were considerably weak. They weren't taking their load. My low back began to hurt as a result.
My acupuncturist, Ned Holle, helped me identify the imbalance in my body and told me to stop training the way that I was and reorganize my strength. Initially, I didn't listen to his advice. I kept overtraining the same muscles again and again. Why? Because I didn't want to stop the momentum of what I thought being STRONG was. Bad idea. My back pain got worse and I began to injure myself quite often (little thing called the EGO got in my way). Eventually, I had to take Ned's advice to heart. So I took a break from the push ups as well as presses and anything that would continue to worsen the problem. I would need to re-organize my body and find power in my other muscles.
Making the mind-glute and mind-lat connection took some focus and an open mind. I had to look at working out from a completely different angle that I ever had before. I felt like Miss Potato Head reorganizing all my parts. I began to focus on and isolate my glutes and lats in very basic exercises where I could engage them consciously. It took a lot of patience and time spent practicing. Eventually I would start to incorporate my newfound strength into my regular workout routine, including push ups. With time, things started getting easier and my back pain lessened considerably. My core became stronger, my glutes are firing much more than they used to, and my body is much more proportioned that it used to be.
I must say, my pushups are so much easier now that I am using my whole body.
I have worked with my clients on the same issue, as weak lats/glutes are a problem for many people and can lead to chronic back pain and injury. I am happy to say, however, that it is a great feeling to empower other people to bring balance back into their bodies and to get out of pain. And it feels GOOD to be a woman and be able to do pushups (correctly)!
Strength and balance to you!
--Marie Nelson, RKC